The incessant barking coming from Jip's mouth, plus the howling storm outside the tent the group had pitched was more than Richard could bear in a second. He had zipped his sleeping bag shut all the way so that he was in complete darkness, and yet the sounds from outside were as clear as day. Oftentimes Richard had to suppress the urge to scream and yell at Jip until the dog's ears would bleed. But something- something unknown- was stopping him.
Richard didn't know what he was going to do. His very soul was in utter turmoil after what had happened that afternoon; first with Chloe, and then discovering that he, he, was the third Proverb, the Proverb of the Books who could summon out the forces of any book. He couldn't believe that any of it had happened because it all happened within the blink of an eye, quicker than anyone, even Chloe, could have imagined.
Just thinking of Chloe sent Richard reeling into a spell of guilt and a whirlwind of emotion swept through him so that he could barely breathe or think. If only he had just thought faster, then maybe Chloe would still be with them. And why on earth did he have to discover this power at the wrong moment? Chloe was in trouble and in the same moment, his power had only made her captors run even faster! Of all the moments in the world, he had only assisted in the kidnapping of his best friend!
For the first time in several years, Richard found himself brewing tears in his eyes. His guilt rocked him to his core, and not even saccharine comforting from Sir Hugo or Jip could help him, no not in a million years. His power was the reason that the second most powerful person in the literary universe was gone. And who knew what treacherous things the kidnappers were doing to her!
"Master, you all right in there!" Jip barked. "You sleeping through that whopper out there?"
"No!" Richard groaned, turning over in his sleeping bag just like a grumpy teenager on a Monday.
"Just looking out for you," Jip said, putting a paw on Richard's body. "I know how hard you must be taking this. Believe me; I'm shocked and dismayed that we failed to protect Chloe. It seems as though my own master has disappeared from existence." His voice dropped to a low, sad tone and there was a thump on the ground, like the dog had just dropped himself down completely.
Richard shook his head, still not coming out. "No, Jip, you don't understand. You and Sir Hugo were all right. It's my fault that Chloe was kidnapped. If I had been looking out for her when my power just came out of nowhere, then she'd be here."
Then Richard felt the sleeping bag slip away, as Jip peeled it away with his teeth. He dropped the fabric when Richard's head was uncovered, and then plopped down beside him.
"You know, at least we narrowed our journey down a little bit," he said. "We have found the third Proverb, now we just have to find our lady friend. Your power may just help us find her. And I think we're going to see some amazing things from you in the next few days, I can tell you that. None of us have seen or heard of the Proverbs in decades, maybe centuries, and you can help us save this world."
"Never heard that before," Richard said sarcastically under his breath.
"I may be a detective's pup, but I know what I want to see," Jip clarified. "With Chloe out of our hands, you might be our only hope."
Richard shook his head and stood up. "You don't get it do you, Jip?" he asked, on the brink of an outburst. "We can't put this whole thing on my shoulders. This adventure was- is- all about me and Chloe, saving this world together. Apparently, I'm only the Proverb of the Books-" he said those words like they were basketball team water boy "-and am not nearly as powerful as Chloe. Besides, the Proverb of the Books is the Imagination's guardian. It's not up to me to just sit here and wait for her to be let go. That would take years with their magic. We'd be lucky if Chloe could get out by herself."
Jip nodded his head. "'Tis very true, very true," he agreed. "But, my boy, how are we- you- going to save her?"
Richard took a deep breath. He now realized what he was getting himself into, and although he was frightened of his decision, he knew that he would hate himself for doing otherwise.
"I'm going to go out and find her. I'll use my new power to help me find her."
Sir Hugo suddenly turned around from watching the storm outside. "Boy, what are you saying?" he asked, looking at Richard like he was a lunatic. "This world is too vast and unpredictable for an inexperienced warrior such as yourself to be running into alone. You would have to hope that your power will never fail you- otherwise would mean certain death!"
Richard couldn't quite explain why, but going out alone to save Chloe was more than just a crazy adventure. It was a mission, a goal, an impassable wall! Without Chloe, the literary world would fall apart with the despair the Pagemaster would befall, and Richard would live with the guilt for a long, long time, maybe for life. The absence would upset many, and all that she had met. And Richard knew well what it would do to this world, his world, and to he himself. She was a good part of his life now, and even he would feel a deep void without her.
Even so, despite the dangers that would lie on the road ahead, Richard found a lingering confidence that he could do it. It wasn't that he wanted to; it was that he had to.
"Are you so confident as to do this?" Sir Hugo asked skeptically.
Richard folded his arms and looked Sir Hugo right in the eye. "Yes. Yes, I am."
Sir Hugo clearly was unsure of what to answer, and he found himself looking down at Jip, who let out a pleading bark. Then Sir Hugo sighed deeply, and reluctantly turned his gaze back to Richard, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Truly, lad, you have fought some good battles in your time," he said, semi-proudly. "But you must also remember that lives are on the line if you fail in your mission. As I told you, this is a vast and unpredictable world, and even the most skilled of sorcerers and warriors can be led astray. Use your ability to the very greatest capacity, and always trust yourself. You must seize the courage!"
"I swear it!" Richard promised, nodding his head and raising his right hand to his oath.
Sir Hugo sighed, as if he were a father saying goodbye to a college-bound son, and taking in another deep breath, suddenly reached his hands around Richard and gave him a hug.
Surprised, Richard returned the hug and smiled.
Richard and Sir Hugo let go, and they both sat down, Jip lying down next to Richard.
"Okay," Richard murmured.
And finally, as he lay down to rest, the storm outside seemed to disintegrate and flee, although far off in the distance, there was still the faint sound of thunder, a sound that echoed in Richard's sleepy ears.